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Saturday, 5 January 2013

First of 2013 - Mackinlay's Blended Whisky - The Journey Edition. All At Sea?


Welcome back folks. We trust you had as much fun over Christmas as we did and of course tasted some sterling liquids.  After indulging fairly ferociously on NYE, we thought it wise to take a little break this week, have a few long walks and give thought to the first dram of 2013, which has actually been nestling in a pile of whiskies at our office awaiting discovery.  And how ironic seeing as its inspiration was pretty much encased in ice, awaiting its own discovery many years ago.

Now unless you really aren't interested in major whisky stories (or have been encased in ice yourself), the tale of the lost Shackleton whisky will be fairly old news to most readers. In short, Antarctic explorer Earnest Shackleton abandoned his base camp back in 1909 leaving behind a case of MacKinlay's blended malt Scotch whisky.  In 2007 the case was rediscovered surrounded in thick ice.  After painstaking research Whyte & Mackay's master blender Richard Paterson recreated the whisky using a recipe including a few rare, long lost malts and the Discovery Edition, eventually released in 2011, received widespread acclaim from most of those who tasted it- including ourselves, the bottling making the shortlist of our 2011 BiG Award.

So you thought the story was over and that this ship had effectively sailed into the sunset?  Oh no.  Why let a golden opportunity pass by.  Another batch of the whisky, the Journey Edition, has been prepared, this time to mark the recreation of one of Shackleton's famed journeys from 1916: 800 nautical miles across ocean and deep ice from Elephant Island off the coast of Antarctica to South Georgia.  This time around, to help raise funds for the Antarctic Heritage Trust, the treacherous journey will be repeated later this month by polar explorer Tim Jarvis using a recreation of one of Shackleton's original vessels and it is hoped that sales of the whisky, (the 'official' whisky of the expedition), will contribute £500,000 to the Trust.
The Journey Edition takes its influence from the
 original straw inner packaging

Now, the cynic in us would say -  guys, why not let it lie?  The original Mackinlay's recreation was sensational - does the world really need (or indeed care about) another batch?? This edition apparently uses different malts to the original recreation but aims to capture the exact same flavour profile as the original 'Discovery' batch - and therefore be as near to the original discovery as possible.  So it's potentially a little bit different, but the same...at the same time.

An Antarctic Hula girl?
Confused yet?
Don't  be. The great thing is that despite the packaging looking more like a bottle of Italian Chianti cross-dressing in a Hawaiian grass skirt, the liquid inside is yet again a masterpiece of blending.  And as there is a genuine cause being supported here we'll chloroform our cynical side, restrain him and put him back in the angry box until the next questionable whisky launch comes around.





MacKinlay's Blended Scotch Malt Whisky - The Journey Edition - 47.3% - 100,000 bottles

Nose: Stewed pears, vanilla pods, a touch of white wine, creamy custard and rich toffee. Wonderfully light, but with a darker side lurking in the background.  Alongside some toasted almonds and a touch of straw lies some delicious wafts of peat smoke - not medicinal, but floral and balanced.  Superb stuff.

Palate: Bang... and we're into unchartered territory here. The fruit from the nose remains, bringing some green apple tartness, but the peat is much more pronounced, spicy and rich.  A tingle of liquorice starts to develop alongside some creamy, sweet malt (barley sugar), dairy fudge and a touch of menthol on the death.  Mouth coating and oily, this is a rugged whisky but the high strength (the whisky was originally bottled at 47.3% to supposedly stop it freezing in the Antarctic conditions) doesn't make it too spirity.  In fact, the palate is as perfectly balanced as the nose.  

Finish: The smoky notes subside and we're left with an orchard fruit freshness, the creamy malt and a touch of dryness. 

Overall: Whilst the concept of part deux smacks a little of sales & marketing over-enthusiasm, you can't fault the liquid here. Hard to say if it is EXACTLY like the original recreation, but on reading our tasting notes for the Discovery Edition after tasting this version, it seems that Mr Paterson has done Shackleton proud once again.